MANILA, Philippines — Many good words have been uttered about Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Sec. Jesse Robredo, but the local ICT industry will remember him particularly as a government official who championed their cause.
As six-term mayor of Naga City, Robredo transformed the once-struggling Bicol city into one of the hallmarks of good governance in the Philippines with his innovative use of ICT as a means of encouraging citizens to participate in government.
The cornerstone of his leadership was i-Governance, a framework anchored on key online initiatives that sought for inclusive governance, information openness, interactive engagement, and innovative management in Naga City.
i-Governance was represented and took concrete form in the official website of Naga City, which featured essential government services, investment opportunities, and key government statistics, among many others.
The website of the City Government of Naga eventually won three times from 2004 to 2006 and became a hall-of-fame awardee of the Philippine Web Awards for its trailblazing use of the Web in delivering public service and reaching out to its constituents.
Years after its establishment, i-Governance contributed a stellar 915 percent increase in city revenues from 1988, when Robredo was first elected as Mayor, to 2002, or a year after i-Governance was launched, according to a past Harvard case study on the city.
“The transparency mechanisms introduced by ICT-DEV and i-Governance, especially with regard to bids, awards and city procurement, has led to reductions in procurement costs,” the study added.
It was for these reasons that Naga City and Robredo were hailed as models of local governance for other cities to emulate. But a key factor in Naga City’s continuing success is the institutionalization of Robredo’s ICT initiatives, according to National ICT Council of the Philippines Chairman Jocelle Batapa-Sigue.
Continuing reform through IT
“Government programs must be initiated not just for the period of the awards but it must be shown that it can be sustained even after the terms of the politicians,” related Batapa-Sigue through Facebook.
Robredo’s ICT projects, she said, were institutionalized through a city ordinance, which allowed his successors to build on and continue the technology-driven initiatives even if he had already gone on to other pursuits.
“Today, Naga’s ICT utilization continues on even after Sec. Jessie finished his term as mayor,” Batapa-Sigue added.
Robredo and the DILG was a key partner of the NICP in launching the eGov Awards for LGUs in the Philippines, which intends to champion the ICT achievements of LGUs in the Philippines the same way Robredo worked his magic with Naga.
He was supposed to hand out the awards to the winning LGUs at the announcement of winners in November.
In one of their prior meetings for the eGov Awards, Batapa-Sigue shared how the creation of a Department of ICT may not at all be a lost cause for Robredo. “He told me it may not really be true (Aquino not being keen on DICT) — he just felt that there is no strong lobby for it,” she said.
Robredo then went on to ask NICP for its position paper about the DICT, eager to learn more about the organization’s DICT advocacy.
“For the first time, I see a man who felt a deep concern for not just the NOW (not just his term) but for the future of this country,” she added.
The creation of a DICT has long been an uphill battle for its supporters and the ICT industry, as it seeks to create a central government agency tasked with handling ICT projects and policy in government. It endeavors to institutionalize key IT projects in government for sustainability beyond officials’ terms in government.
The bill pushing for its creation had already passed both chambers of Congress, but a bicameral conference set in March was surreptitiously postponed for a still unidentified date.
No bicameral meeting has been scheduled ever since.
On his way back to Naga City on Saturday, August 18, the private plane carrying the DILG Secretary crashed off the waters of Masbate island.
After a massive three-day search and rescue operations, Robredo’s body was found inside the plane’s wreckage Tuesday morning together with the two pilots — Capt. Jessup Bahinting and his co-pilot Nepalese Kshitz Chand — 180 feet underwater.